It really is this good.

This is a Really Real Relationship post.

I’m all about radical vulnerability. Being wide open, and raw, and honest.

And I realized that while I’m showing all of the sides of mental illness and widowhood, it feels like I’m offering a Facebook version of my relationship.

And that’s not who I am.

It’s not what I’ve ever meant to do.

And honestly, I want people to know that things CAN be good, even with shitty mental health and a shitty traumatic past, and even with a relationship that’s just, almost, perfect.  I deserve good things, and things don’t have to be perfect to be good.

Wonder Woman and I have a really great relationship.

Over two years in and we haven’t had a single fight. We haven’t raised our voices at each other or said harsh words to each other even once. We apologize almost immediately if anything has even seemed passive aggressive. We even apologize if we’re grumpy or in a bad mood.

We really are sickeningly sweet.

But.

We have hard talks about hard things. We have some areas of our lives and our relationship that are really hard to work through. We are polar opposites in a few areas.

We are gentle with each other about those areas. We are respectful. We are understanding.

And, we get help with navigating those areas from a couples therapist, because the view from the outside is much clearer than the view from within.

It helps, and we always come out of our sessions with ideas about how to move forward, together.

I think there’s this view that couples therapy is for couples that are falling apart.

That it’s a last resort.

It was one of the first things we went for when we realized we were hitting road blocks in some areas of communication.

Don’t get me wrong. We have GREAT communication. But some areas are just HARD when we are so different. Different histories, different traumas, different preferences.

Different ways of communicating.

So I’m writing this post for two reasons.  One, is because I realized I was offering this “facebook reality” of my relationship, and I just don’t like that. And two, is to help with normalizing couples therapy, because really, what’s wrong with getting an unbiased outside perspective?

Vacation

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But also a bit of Mental Health thrown in there.

We never took vacations.

It’s one of my big regrets from Parker and I, but also from Kidlet’s childhood.

There was the year we traveled from Maryland to Florida to see our families.  That was our only family vacation in the 8 years we were together.

I think once we came from Florida, to Maryland, tagging along with my mom.  I guess that was a vacation. During that trip we managed to go over to DC for part of a day. Parker had never been to D.C. and she absolutely loved it.

A few years later when we were living in the homeless shelter up here, we met her family in D.C. for the day while they were on their vacation.

But vacations weren’t really on our radar.

Keeping the lights on, paying off the rent before the eviction notice expired, stretching the food stamps by making it to the food pantries on time. Making it to countless doctors appointments.

Those were the things we worried about.

But not vacations.

Wonder Woman and I leave for vacation tonight. I can’t count the number of overnight trips and vacations we’ve had in the 2 years we’ve been together. This is a belated anniversary trip, something we wanted to do, but couldn’t quite afford to do in September, so we were able to put aside some money and make it happen a bit late.

We’re going to a cabin in the mountains. The mountains are Wonder Woman’s place, she loves the cold. Mine is the beach and the warmth.

We’ve done lots of beach trips, it’s time to hit the mountains. I guess I can bundle up for a few days.

We have a fireplace in our cabin, and there are fire pits in the resort.

I guess I can handle that.

I still have great memories of going to the beach over Christmas on our first vacation. Hanging out in front of the fire together.

I look forward to repeating that.

I still feel weird taking vacations. I still have to remind myself that I deserve nice things. That I deserve happiness. That I deserve to travel and have these experiences.

That I deserve stability.

I’m so used to struggle that it’s hard to settle into stability.

It’s hard to feel comfortable with packing for a trip. It’s hard to avoid overthinking it.

It’s hard to find the balance between “bring absolutely everything you might need” and “if you forget something you can just buy it.”

It’s hard to find the balance between over planning/letting anxiety win and waiting for the last minute/letting anxiety win.

It’s hard to find the balance between being thankful for what I have now, and grieving what I didn’t have then.

We never took vacations.

I deserve this life.

Authentically Me.

This is a Really Real Identity Post.

A few months ago I wrote Defining Myself, an identity crisis post where I was having a hard time figuring out what to write in a dating profile.  I wrote out all of the things I’m not or didn’t do wholeheartedly, but it was hard to describe who I am. A few people on Facebook told me I should put just what I wrote.

I never did.

But lately a few people have told me how amazing it is that I’m not afraid to be my authentic self.

I was taken aback every time I heard that.

I hadn’t described what I do as being my authentic self, and I definitely was, and am afraid.

I just wear the clothes that appeal to me. I dye my hair the colors that I love. I write my story and share my truth because it’s cathartic, and also because it educates and helps me commiserate with other people.

It took me hearing other people say it for me to realize I am authentically and (mostly) unapologetically me.

I still don’t know how to describe who I am, but I’m realizing I do live my truth.

There’s a meme that floats around “Be so authentic that it inspires others to be themselves.” Or something like that. I have a hard time believing that is who I am.

But others tell me that they are learning to speak their truth and live their truth because they see me doing it.

And I have to admit, the more I live my truth, the bigger and brighter my smile gets.

I’m still anxious, almost constantly. Way more anxious than I think a lot of people realize.  Being true to myself is hard in a world that doesn’t quite get people like me.

There’s another meme, “Speak your truth and see who sticks around. Those are the people who get a spot in your blanket fort.” I posted that once and was privately told that they didn’t get the point in sharing that, because, duh. (I’m paraphrasing.) I explained that for most of my life I didn’t realize that was how this worked.

I was worried about fitting in with everyone, being liked by everyone, not standing out and blending into the crowd so I wasn’t really seen.

I’m just now, within the last 3 years, realizing that life is too short to be anything but who I am.

It really sucks that it took her death to make me realize this.

But now I’m surrounded by people who get me and want to be around the real me. I am surrounded by more and more people. I have a supportive group of friends that is unlike anything I’ve ever known.

I’m not like this to inspire others. I’m like this because hiding, blending in, and being anyone other than myself was part of a slow suicide that happened for years.

That said, I do appreciate hearing the stories of people who beginning to live their own truth. It takes bravery to stop blending in.

I’m glad I get to be a part of that.

L-I-G! (Life Is Good!)

This is a Really Real Life Post.

Being able to be myself is nothing short of amazing.

I mean, yeah, being wholeheartedly me means I deal with some really bad depression and suicidal ideation. It means I spend days inpatient and weeks in partial sometimes. It means there are some really shitty times.

But it also means I get to be open and out there and vulnerable. I get to wear my wild skirts and bright hair. I get to tell my story in a way that helps others (and helps me at the same time). I get to laugh and cry and let my dorky hang out.

I get to spend time with people who are just my kinda people, instead of struggling to fit in with the people who aren’t.

I’m learning how important all of this is.

I trip down the sidewalk, I fall face first down the stairs, I spill food down my shirt, all on a regular basis. But that’s just part of my charm, even the bruises, scars, and messed up shirts.

I am anxious and moody and sometimes my memory is all kinds of shit. But I keep moving forward no matter what life throws at me.

I’m falling in love with my authentic self.

My imperfect, beautiful, self.

I wish I could see things from this perspective all of the time. I wish depression didn’t creep in and pull me under. Make me nervous and afraid. Make me sad and apathetic. I wish life was all roses and bright smiles.

But even my mental illness is part of who I am. It’s part of what makes me, me. It’s part of what makes me beautiful.

Even though sometimes I’m a beautiful mess.

I’m learning to accept all of me.

And that’s pretty fucking amazing.

I can’t wait to see who I’m becoming.

The best is yet to come.

(Someone save this post and send it to me next time I’m falling apart, please.)

 

Share your story, Speak your truth.

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

Lately, I see a lot of people getting Really Real about mental health. Part of it is who I surround myself with, part of it is that people are pulling of the veil and deciding to be truthful about who they are.

Now, I know not everyone can, or wants to do this.

But I’m so happy when I see people who do.

Parker didn’t exactly hide her mental illness, but at the same time she was afraid to speak up when it mattered most. It had, and in some ways still has, this underlying notion that mental illness is a weakness.

I remember the first time I was told to pull myself up by my bootstraps. The first time, not, by far, the only time.

It’s nice to see friends who are talking more openly. Talking about their triumphs and struggles.

Some of my favorite posts are the “I’m having a rough day, please send me memes” posts. I occasionally reach out in the same way and it’s so nice to see everyone kind of come together to shower me with love and laughs. It’s what we need! Community and support make this road a lot easier to travel.

Even better are the posts that show us we aren’t alone in this struggle. We may not have the same diagnoses or life situations, but the underlying emotions are the same.

I’m super lucky that I have an amazing support system (spanning multiple countries) but I got that support system by speaking up. By being real. By speaking my story and sharing my truth.

By being vulnerable.

Vulnerability isn’t a weakness. Vulnerability is strength. It’s how you build community, it’s how you reach out for support.

I’m glad that I see more people being real and raw and open and I wanted to globally say how much I appreciate that.

Share your story. Speak your truth.

Be vulnerable!

 

It’s 3am

This is a Really Real Widow Post. With some Really Real Mental Health mixed in.

It’s 3am. Coffee too late and a touch of hypomania means I’m still awake.

I don’t want to be awake.

I have a full day tomorrow.

This morning (yesterday morning) there was a Michael’s ad in my email, and there was a pumpkin with Parker carved into it.

Parker isn’t the kind of name I normally see in random places.

I’ve been missing her today. I’m especially missing her at 3am.

I always miss her in small ways, but sometimes that comes to the forefront. Sometimes I can feel the old pain in my chest.

“I miss her tonight.” I send the text to our son.

I wish the ball in my chest would grow big enough to let me cry. Maybe then I could get some sleep.

Lack of sleep always brings a rough day. I wish I could rewind and undrink the coffee that seemed so appealing 8 hours ago. I wish I could rewind and take those pills out of her hand.

I wish I could rewind and change things so that I stop seeing that morning play out in slow motion.

I wish I could rewind so she could see my life now. I wish I could rewind so she could still be breathing.

I just wish I could rewind.

He texts back “Yeah, I do too.”

Then he asks if I’m safe. You know, because every kid has to worry that they might lose another mom that way.

It’s totally normal.

I joke because facing the reality of our fucked up life is made easier when I add some humor.

Life isn’t all that bad now. I have the space to be annoyed when I’m awake at 3 am. I have the spoons to type this out. I have a roof over my head that isn’t going anywhere.

I’m not suicidal right now. That makes life extra good.

I miss her tonight. That ball is still in the middle of my chest. Not quite large enough to let me cry this out. I want to be held and comforted, but it’s 3am, self soothing will have to do.

There’s no real point to this, no profound realization, no life lesson for me to pass on.

I can’t remember the sound of her voice anymore. Not all of the time. I was laying with Wonder Woman the other day and the thought hit me “Will I remember your voice after you die?” I’m engaged with full knowledge that I could become a widow again.

Life happens.

Death happens.

I’ve been watching her sleep more often lately. Making sure she’s still breathing. I even watch the cat and the dog now.

It must be on my mind how fragile life is.

Watching for the slow rise and fall of her chest. Panicked if I don’t see it right away. Relieved when she makes some small noise.

We listen to The Mountain Goats sometimes.

“I hope you die.” “I hope we both die.”

We add our own line “at the same time.”

I miss her tonight. Both of them. I miss the one who isn’t breathing anymore, and I miss the one who’s hopefully still breathing in the other room.

I need to go check again.

Maybe this time, I can fall asleep beside her.

What would it look like?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

This one got long and I’m leaving it that way, because there’s some really good stuff in here.

It’s been almost a week since I wrote.  I can normally tell things are going well when I’m not writing every day.

It’s hard to write when things are just,

Okay.

I started asking for a word a week or two ago.  I asked my therapist, asked in group therapy, asked Wonder Woman. “What’s the word for baseline, midline, “normal”?  Not manic, not depressed, just, okay.”

I don’t like using the word normal. I don’t think there is a “normal.” Add to that, having a period when I’m not hypomanic and not depressed certainly isn’t normal for me.

It hasn’t really lasted any significant period, so I wouldn’t classify it as stability.

Euthymic.

According to an online medical dictionary, “Euthymia is a normal non-depressed, reasonably positive mood. It is distinguished from hyperthymia, which refers to an extremely happy mood, and dysthymia, which refers to a depressed mood. It is a term used frequently in mental status exams.”

I’m mostly euthymic right now.

My meds are working. Unfortunately I’m on some higher doses and I’m having some shitty side effects, but I’m finding ways to cope with them.

Meanwhile I’m working on some hard shit in partial. I’m digging into some core beliefs about myself that are supremely unhelpful. I’m trying to sort out the process of getting rid of them and replacing them with positive truths. I’m digging into how I’m supposed to do that.

It’s easy to say on the surface, especially when I’m doing well, “I’m not too much,” “I’m not less than,” “I’m good enough,” and ultimately “I’m allowed to be me and I’m wholly lovable as my true self.” But, when there’s an underlying belief that it’s all bullshit, that surface shine falls apart as soon as depression hits.

It becomes a spiral.

Depression makes me question my validity.

And my worthiness.

And my right to the space I take, both physically and emotionally.

And eventually my desire, and even my right to exist.

That’s so hard to look at from the outside.

How do I change it?

Telling myself “I am pretty, I am kind, I am important” is a great place to start. (Side note: I’ve never seen that movie) However, it only goes so far.

I was asked, “What does life look like without those beliefs?” “What does life look like without mental illness?”

Well, fuck.

This is all I’ve known.

Where does the illness end and I begin? What happens if you take me away from the trauma, away from the chaos, and away from the mental instability?

Who would I be if I were to achieve stability?

I keep saying, that right now it isn’t fair that my brain is being such an asshole. My life is the calmest it’s ever been. My bills are paid, I have lights and food and a stable roof over my head. My house isn’t filled with tension from the latest screaming match, or problems we are avoiding. I’m, in a lot of ways, living my best life right now.

And my brain is more unstable than it’s ever been.

Maybe it doesn’t know what stability should look like.

I mean, it’s not just one thing. It’s also that life is finally calm enough that I can process and heal from all of the trauma, and healing isn’t pretty.

But maybe it’s time to take a long, hard look at what my life would be if it weren’t the only thing I’ve ever known.

And that’s some hard shit.